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MR. PENNELL'S ETCHINGS 

OF 

NEW YORK "SKY SCRAPERS 



>> 



BY 
FREDERICK KEPPEL 





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40.1 

P43yK38m 
1905 1 
NMAA 1 




FREDERICK KEPPEL & CO. 

20 EAST l6TH STREET, NEW YORK 

1905 



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MR. PENNELL'S ETCHINGS 

OF 

NEW YORK "SKY SCRAPERS 5 ' 



BY 
FREDERICK KEPPEL 



FREDERICK KEPPEL & CO. 

i 

20 EAST 1 6TH STREET, NEW YORK 

I 9° 5 



The DeVinne Press. 










Park Row. 



MR. PENNELL'S ETCHINGS 

OF 

NEW YORK "SKY SCRAPERS" 

PERHAPS no artist now living and working 
has less need of an introduction to the 
American public than Mr. Joseph Pennell. His 
age is now only forty-five and yet it would be 
difficult to name any other man who has given 
us so many enjovable pictures of such fine artis- 
tic quality. 

At the invitation of the authorities at the St. 
Louis Exposition Mr. Pennell went from Lon- 
don to St. Louis, where he served as Chairman 
of the Jury on Illustration and Engraving, and 
returning eastward by way of Philadelphia — his 
native city — he came on to us here in New 
York. His stay with us was brief, because, as 
usual, he was wanted in Europe, where impor- 
tant commissions awaited him. 

Arrived in New York, Mr. Pennell' s experi- 
ence has been similar to what it was in the many 
European countries whose scenes he has depicted. 
He cares as little as ever for the recognized 
'-' show-pieces," — just as little as Whistler him- 

5 



self cared, — and says of our Old Citv Hall, and 
Grace Church, and the Central Park that thev 
are all very well in their way, but that the same 
things, or things very similar, may be seen in 
almost any other civilized capital; but the tower- 
ing piles of the New York "sky scrapers" — 
each one of them like a whole street set on end 
— have impressed Mr. Pennell verv stronglv, 
and these absolute novelties in etched pictures 
are what we now exhibit. Their collective title 
mav seem to lack the dignitv of prim formalitv, 
but vet a recent writer in Paris has issued a 
treatise which it pleases him to entitle " Les 
Skv-scratcfrers de Xew York " ! 

These recent etchings of Mr. Pennell' s are 
instinct with the qualitv which both Whistler 
and Sir Sevmour Haden have alwavs maintained 
to be the prime characteristic of the best painter- 
etching — namelv, spontaneity; and what Whis- 
tler wrote a few vears ago about Mr. Pennell' s 
Spanish lithographs might with equal truth be 
said of these " skv scrapers": "There is a 
crispness in their execution, and a lightness and 
gaietv in their arrangement as pictures, that be- 
long to the artist alone." 

This impromptu spontaneity of Mr. PennelPs 
method carries with it one little drawback — ir it 
be a drawback at all. It is, that in his archi- 

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The " L " and the Trinity Building. 




The Four-story House. 




The Stock Exchange. 



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tectural scenes what the French call the orienta- 
tion is reversed: west is east and east is west. 
In this he follows the precedent of both Rem- 
brandt and Whistler. The sole preoccupation 
of these masters was to produce a picture, and 
thev cared not at all to provide a topographical 
plan of some stated locality. The artist etches 
his subject on the copper plate just as he sees it, 
and in the printing of the proofs the orientation 
is, of course, reversed. But if any over-scrupu- 
lous person wishes to see one of Whistler's 
Venice etchings, or one of PennelPs New York 
plates, exactly as the original buildings repre- 
sented stand, he has only to hold the etching 
before a mirror and look at the reflection. Or, 
to satisfy all tastes, a set of the etchings has been 
printed on very transparent paper and mounted 
back outward so as to show the buildings as they 
actually stand. 

John Ruskin, when once invited to visit the 
United States, declared that he could not exist 
in a countrv which contained no ancient castles ; 
but with us in America, where "the greatest 
good to the greatest number" is the wholesome 
rule, such sentimentality is generally swept 
aside: down comes the inconvenient old build- 
ing and up goes a much better one in its place. 
But it must not be supposed for these reasons 

i5 



that our contemporary architects are not genuine 
artists also. Mr. Pennell certainly has discerned 
art in their "sky scrapers," and so competent a 
judge as Mr. F. Marion Crawford, on seeing 
these etchings, made the pithy remark, "I see 
that you have made Architecture of the New 
York buildings." He has, and yet he has de- 
picted them truly. 

Still another authority of high repute has 
given his opinion thus: " In whatever he does 
he is always the artist ; and now that Whistler 
is dead and Sevmour Haden no longer etching, 
I consider that the ablest painter-etcher now 
living and working is unquestionably Joseph 
Pennell." 

Frederick Keppel. 

February, 1905. 



Note. The Century Magazine of March, 1905, contains 
an excellent illustrated article on Mr. Pennell's etchings of 
New York "sky scrapers." 



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